¨Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault¨ followed the discussion by the Human Rights Committee of the Shura Council (Upper House) on Monday, February 11, 2013 about the mob sexual attacks against women in Tahrir Square and, more recently, around the Presidential Palace in Heliopolis. While we were not surprised by the shameful performance of the Council, which lacks legitimacy and does not represent the Egyptian people, some of the statements by Council members amounted to incitement of sexual assault. Some members of the Council held women responsible for the rapes and assaults, and once again dismissed the state's duty to protect its citizens from harm.
These statements reflect the ideologies and politics of a regime which provides apologies and political rationalizations for these heinous crimes, which in some cases constituted attempted murder. They are also evidence of the state´s insistence upon ignoring the origins of this problem, which is that sexual harassment is not penalized and occurs in an organized fashion and on a daily basis. The statements also serve as proof of the state's backwards and reactionary views on women'´s rights, and its pursuit of strategies by which to blame the victims rather than attempt to bring the criminal assailants to justice.
The women who are subjected to these mob attacks are women who demand the downfall of this illegitimate Council. We see the Council's denial of its own responsibility and that of the state in protecting protesters and holding attackers accountable as a denial of basic democratic principles and a demonstration of this regime's tyranny and its insistence on punishing its opponents.
While we are focused on working to end mob sexual attacks in Tahrir Square, we stress that these attacks lie at the surface of a deep and complicated pattern of harassment which clearly and persistently takes place during holiday celebrations and non-political gatherings. Furthermore, numerous studies and accounts point to an increase in incidents of harassment and violent sexual assaults which women experience in the public sphere on a daily basis.
Therefore, we reject the superficial and ineffective solutions proposed by the Shura Council and other agencies, which are based on marginalizing women. For example, the suggestion that women should only protest in spaces that are designated for them is demeaning to women and does not address the core of the problem we are facing. All of this contributes to a regressive & patriarchal discourse which foments the social epidemic of sexual violence and hostility against women, ratifying it as accepted by society itself and by those who claim to represent the people on state level.
We do not expect state institutions or political parties or movements to present any real solutions to the problems women face in this society. These actors have continuously ignored the dire problems women in Egypt face from the time of the previous regime, through the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and through to the rise of this current regime. The state is a part of an oppressive structure which does not hesitate to repeatedly attack female protesters. It did not stop with the attack on female protesters on Black Wednesday in 2005, or with the so-called "virginity tests", or with the stripping and dragging of protesters on the streets. OpAntiSH believes that the deterioration of the situation to the current reality, in which gang rapes are taking place amidst crowds of citizens, is in no small way a result of these actors' persistent failure to address the problems women face in the public sphere, and their dismissals of numerous suggestions and projects which women's organizations and concerned individuals have presented in an attempt to treat the problem over the course of numerous years.
OpAntiSH does not currently see itself as tasked with explaining or proving the extent to which these attacks are organized by those whose interests are harmed by Tahrir Square being a safe and welcoming place for members of both genders and all sects of society. However, the Shura Council's meeting on February 11 is damning proof that we live under the rule of a state which not only abandons its responsibility to protect its citizens, but incites violence against women and blames them for sexual attacks carried out by men in Tahrir Square and beyond it. The outcome of the meeting by the committee which is supposed to defend human rights in Egypt was to encourage harassers to go to protest sites and abuse female protesters, and to scare and intimidate women from going to protests. The state is therefore fully complicit in these crimes against women.
OpAntiSH and other initiatives are pooling immense effort from male and female volunteers who are working to ensure that protest sites are safe for all. We find the state itself to be the violator of the principles of the revolution and human rights. The state made no effort to stop the kidnappings, sexual assaults, and group torture which have been used against protesters. In fact, it has supported this violence with statements such as the ones issued by Shura Council members, and some extremist religious voices which condemn women's bodies simply for their presence in streets and public squares.
Our bodies will not be arenas for political battles. Women in Egypt will not be silent about injustice and assault. We will continue our participation, we will continue to go into the street until we fulfill the demands of the revolution and the day comes when women and all others treated as equal citizens, with their rights and dignity intact and protected from society and from the state.
Operation Anti Sexual Harassment/Assault
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Nazra for Feminist Studies
Shoft taharosh (I saw harassment) initiative by the Fouada Watch
Nefssy Iniative against sexual harassment
Baheyya ya Masr
The Nadeem Center
The Uprising of Women in the Arab World
Email: opantish(at)gmail.com <http://gmail.com>
Facebook: www.facebook.com/OpAntiSH <http://www.facebook.com/OpAntiSH>
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T2 is a one-stop shop for reliable and enlightening information about the Arab uprisings, revolutions and their effects. It combines both original content by leading analysts, journalists and authoritative commentators, and curated content carefully selected from across the web to provide activists, researchers, observers and policy makers a catch-all source for the latest on the Arab revolutions and related issues through an interactive, virtual multimedia platform.
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That Effect still lives inside those who believe in the ongoing revolutions that called for ‘bread, freedom, social justice and human dignity’. This website is a part of that broader initiative, seeking to provide people with the knowledge and information to assist and stimulate that process of reawakening, through the provision of reliable news reports, thoughtful commentary, and useful analysis.
T2 attracted a great deal of attention from various specialists, activists and writers on, and in, the Arab world. After identifying with its principles, work and aims, some were invited to become advisors to the website, acting in personal capacities.
Counselling on issues such as content, editorial direction and strategic initiatives, such advisors include Dr H.A. Hellyer , a writer and political analyst on the region; Motaz Attalla , an educational development specialist; Waleed Almusharaf, a doctoral researcher at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London; and others.
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T2’s exclusive content section benefits from the contributions of our diverse columnists, who carry responsibility for the opinions written in their work, with responsibility for the site remaining with T2’s founders. Initial contributions came from the likes of Nathan Brown of George Washington University, Mirette F. Mabrouk of the Economic Research Forum, Hani Sabra of Eurasia, Bassem Sabry, an Egyptian commentator, Rebecca Chiao of HarassMap and Khaled Elgindy of Brookings .
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